Younger sister of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, Rose Marie Kennedy, was born at her parents' house in Boston, Massachusetts in 1918. She was the third child and first daughter of Joseph Patrick Kennedy and Rose Elizabeth Kennedy. She was known commonly as "Rosemary" or "Rosie" to her friends and family during her lifetime.
She has been described as a shy and mentally slow girl by brain damage at birth whose I.Q. test reportedly indicated a moderate mental retardation. She also reportedly had violent mood swings and her personality became very assertive. Therefore, the often-stormy Rosemary was hard to get along with her siblings who were expected to perform to high standards. Though, there is evidence via diary entries and arithmetic problems that Rosemary was not mentally deficient at all. Still, as she got older, her family worried that her reported mental problems might damage the family's reputation.
In 1941, doctors told her father about a new neurosurgical procedure, Prefrontal Leucotomy. The doctors believed that this procedure would be able to help calm her mood swings. However, this procedure was relatively new at that time, and only a few procedures had been performed. Rosemary, considered mentally retarded, was the first person considered as such, to receive a prefrontal lobotomy in America.
James W. Watts and Walter Freeman, performed a prefrontal lobotomy on Rosemary at the age of 23 as her father, Joseph Kennedy Sr. asked a neurosurgeon to perform a treatment to relieve her serious mental disorders. However, the procedure left her permanently incapacitated and she was incapable of living a normal life. She stayed in several private institutions until she was institutionalized during the 1940s at St. Coletta's home near Jefferson, Wisconsin for the mentally disabled.
Inspired by Rosemary Kennedy’s story, her younger sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, became an activist for mental retardation. Eunice Kennedy Shriver took over her sister’s care when her mother got a stroke, and founded the Special Olympics for mentally disabled athletes in 1968. Rosemary Kennedy died by natural causes in 2005 in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. She was 86.